Focus on Love

John 13:34-35 (NIV) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so
you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love
one another.”

Several times a month, I cross the Mackinac Bridge. Miles before reaching the bridge, the
suspension towers shine white against the blue sky. During the almost 5 miles driving over the
bridge, the views are even more amazing. Looking out over the railings, I see ferries traveling to
Mackinac Island with white foam trailing behind, sailboats, and amazing shorelines. There are
so many things on which to focus. However, I am driving across a bridge high above the water!
This means focusing on the highest priority; the road and the traffic around me. In life, and in
faith, focusing on the highest priority is very important.

In John 13, Jesus shares with the disciples his principles for a life of faith. We are to focus on
love; especially loving each other the way Jesus shows love to us.

What does this look like? In Galatians and 1 Corinthians, loving behavior is described as kind,
patient, not irritable or envious, displaying goodness and self-control and gentleness. Behavior
that does not “bite and devour each other.”

How are you doing in these areas? When we see room for improvement, Jesus invites us to live
more deeply in the Way of Love. Love for God. Love for self. Love for one another. We do
this by spending time with God. As we do so, the very character of God rubs off on us, changing
us and filling us. We can then share this love with others in how we speak and act. As Jesus
stated, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples….”

Karen Henderlong

Observing the Lilies

The tiger lilies are in bloom along the roadside in July and August. Seeing the tiger lilies makes me
wonder if there used to be a farm house in that location. The farm house is gone, but the tiger lilies are
still growing. Those lilies are survivors.

Jesus invites us to “Observe how the lilies of the field grow.” (Matthew 6:28). He is pointing out that we
keep on learning by diligently studying, researching, and observing the world around us. There is
something in how a lily grows that Jesus wants us to observe.

The tiger lilies were not only surviving, they were thriving. The plants I saw had vibrant green leaves
with beautiful orange and black blossoms. That’s what I saw on the surface. It would have been easy to
overlook the underground realities which influenced the plants thriving. Underground there was the
composition of the soil, the workings of the root system, the available moisture, and the important role
that worms play. All of these unseen factors are necessary for the tiger lily to thrive.

There are unseen factors in our life that are necessary for us to thrive?

To thrive we need nutritious food, clean water, proper medical care, and comfortable shelter. These are
what we see. We also need a proper root system. These roots are the relationships that we have with
family and friends. Being strongly rooted builds vitality in our life. It would be interesting to diagram all
of the relationships in your life. The diagram will probably look like a root system.

We need to give and receive love, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, and goodness. These are
essential emotions for a healthy person. A thriving community, like good soil, is composed of these
upbeat, Godly emotions.

How are you like the lily? What do you need to thrive today?

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew
6:33

Thriving in God’s Protection

Our focus for the month of August is Thriving in God’s Protection. Isaiah 43.2 is the verse we will use to focus on God’s protection. We read, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you”.

In Isaiah chapter 42, we see God reminding the Israelites they are his “chosen people in whom he delights” (v. 1) and in verse 6, he tells them he “will take you by the hand and keep you..” As chapter 42 continues, God also reminds Israel of their failure to hear and see what God is doing in their life. In chapter 43, God reminds Israel that in spite of their failure to hear and see, God has redeemed them and called them by name.

He will not allow them to be overwhelmed or consumed by the waters and fires of life.

We see examples of God’s people thriving in his protection. Exodus 14 tells of how, at the Red Sea, God parted the waters for his people to pass through and then let them fall upon the Egyptians, drowning them. In Joshua 3, God held the waters of the Jordan River back while the priests stood there with the Ark of the Covenant until all the people had passed through the river. We see God’s protection of Daniel and his friends from the heat of the fiery furnace in Daniel 3. All throughout scripture, God is protecting his people.

I challenge you to ask yourself how you are thriving in God’s protection this day, this week, this month. Are you feeling overwhelmed, consumed? If so, remember, God has called you and he is transforming you with the power of His redeeming grace.

Rest in his grace, Chaplain Val

Baruch Senior Ministries Celebrates 25th Anniversary and Announces Executive Transition

Baruch Senior Ministries, a 501(c)(3) faith-based nonprofit, and the 13th largest nonprofit assisted living provider in the country, celebrates 25 years of serving seniors throughout the state of Michigan. Along with this celebration, Baruch announced an important transition within their Executive Team.

 

In 1997, Baruch Senior Ministries was founded with an emphasis on the spiritual care of residents and providing an affordable program that enabled seniors to make Baruch communities their homes. The Lifetime Promise adds the assurance that they can stay even in times of financial and medical hardship. Since then, the organization has grown to serve 27 communities across the state of Michigan and plans to continue to expand its reach and mission in the coming years. While the communities served span throughout the state, Baruch’s corporate office is located in Grand Rapids, MI.

 

On July 1, 2022, Baruch announced that their CEO and Founder, Tom Nobel, transitioned to the part-time role of Founder & Executive Chairman. In his place, Mitch McNeal assumed the role of President and CEO. Mitch has served as the President of Baruch Senior Ministries since 2018 and has devoted 11 years in total to the organization.

 

As of July 1, the Executive Team also includes the promotion of Connie Clauson as Chief Operating Officer and James Tew as Chief Financial Officer. Connie has been instrumental for 22 years in overseeing Baruch operations as Executive Vice President. James has also made major contributions as Vice President of Finance and developing Baruch’s in-house finance function.

 

“In a few months, we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of Baruch, and more importantly, celebrating God’s goodness and blessings over those years,” Founder Tom Nobel said, “I’m confident that the executive team will continue to look to God’s guidance while using their gifts to honor God and serve people as they age.”

 

Baruch Senior Ministries is a faith-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring God by serving people as they age. Baruch currently has 27 assisted living communities across the state of Michigan that seek to care for seniors while upholding Biblical principles. Their focus in each community is to create a compassionate and loving environment where seniors can make a lasting home.

Biking for Baruch “Moving for Miles”

Baruch Senior Ministries, a 501(c)(3) faith-based nonprofit, and the 13th largest nonprofit assisted living provider in the country, is hosting their annual Biking for Baruch Fundraiser during the month of September. This is the 12th Annual Biking for Baruch fundraiser to take place, but this year, the organization has added a twist.

Baruch Senior Ministries is excited to introduce “Moving for Miles”, a new initiative that invites more individuals to participate and set personal or team goals. Individuals or teams can now bike, walk, run, jog, swim, rollerblade, or use anything that takes physical activity to move, to raise pledges and track miles. Participants can raise funds for their Baruch home of choice.

This virtual event enables anyone to participate no matter their location. This event takes place the entire month of September and will end with a celebratory gathering at Millennium Park in Grand Rapids, MI on October 1, 2022 where riders can move more miles and eat lunch with other participants.

For more details or to register, click this link: https://baruchseniorministries.regfox.com/crowd/biking-for-baruch-moving-for-miles

Baruch Senior Ministries is a faith-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring God by serving people as they age. Baruch currently has 27 assisted living communities across the state of Michigan that seek to care seniors while upholding Biblical principles. Their focus in each community is to create a compassionate and loving environment where seniors can make a lasting home.

What’s in Your Life Bag?

A group of women I know camp together every year. They enjoy walking around the
campground seeing what people bring. This year, one campsite had a huge motorhome and a full
fence for the dog to run in. One had just a small tent and nothing else. And another a humorous
statue that made everyone laugh! When traveling, people pack all kinds of provisions for their
trips from small items like marshmallows to large grills, electric bikes, and various shelters.
Some travel light, some travel heavily loaded. With gas prices high, some even may wonder if
they will have what they need to continue their journey.

It got me wondering. What provisions do we want? And what about our journey of life? What
do we truly need to thrive? Do we “pack” the right stuff? And what do we need to set aside?

In teaching how to pray, Jesus shared that we are to focus day by day, praying and knowing that
God gives what is needed for the day. Also, Matthew 11:28-30 describes Jesus sharing the
following: (The Message version) “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned Out? Come to me. Get
away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me
and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay
anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and
lightly.”

Jesus knows that it was and is not an easy world. And Jesus shared the truth with people then
and now……..that God provides for us and provides what we truly need.

When we follow Jesus and his ways….when we pack our lives with time with God, with rest
each week, with learning the way of love; ….we are going to a spiritual gas station of sorts.
Jesus shows us how to be filled with God’s presence, and how to unhook the heavy things from
our lives that weigh us down. And Jesus rides along with us, providing direction along the way.

Chaplain Karen

Have a Happy Journey

A number of years ago my mini-van got a flat tire. Car engineers find creative ways to store spare tires. The spare tire was located underneath the car. As I was scraping my knuckles trying to reach the spare tire, a young man saw my predicament. He asked if I could use some help. I was a bit embarrassed to accept his offer, but I did. With a sense of relief, I watched as he got under the car and released the spare tire. He even removed the flat tire and put on the spare tire. I thanked him for his help.

We all can use some help now and then on the journey of life. The wise person accepts the help when God provides it. When we have a cavity in our tooth, we can complain about the pain for months or we can go to the dentist. When we have a leak in our water pipes, we can keep drying out our wet papers or we can call the plumber. When we want fresh fruit, we can go to the grocery store. Well, you get the idea…. Most days we are unaware of all of the people who came alongside us on the road of life. These caring and competent individuals help us thrive and be prosperous. Take some time and think about all of the people who helped you on your journey today.

When the Israelites were entering into the Promised Land, God gave them some advice for the journey. God advised them to read the Bible and to put it into practice. “Then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success” (Joshua 1:8). God wanted His people to thrive. The Children of Israel wisely accepted the help God gave them in their journey of life.

“Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 1:2.

-Rev. Jeff Meyers

Thriving in God’s Peace

Peace does not come easily in this life and sleep, well, if we don’ have peace, we do not have sleep. Our verse assures us that we will BOTH lie down and sleep when we dwell in the safety of the Lord. 

Psalm 4 is an expression of David’s confidence and trust in the Lord. David is running for his life while being pursued by his conniving and manipulative son Absalom (2 Samuel 15)! I would imagine David was afraid and yet, because of his close relationship with the Lord, David let go of his fear and focused on the Lord. David begins by asking for God’s grace (vs. 1) and urging his enemies to stop rebelling against God (vs. 2). David is assured that, as a faithful servant, God hears when he calls to him (vs.3).Then David says, ‘do not sin’ think about what you are doing, search your heart, offer righteous sacrifices (this means do not repay evil for evil, rather offer a blessing) and trust in the Lord (a key word to peace and safety). David seeks God’s face shining in favor (vs.6) causing David’s heart to be filled with joy, like the joy of an abundant harvest of grain and new wine!  

At last, with David’s strong trust in the Lord, he was able to both lie down and sleep, not toss and turn, dwelling in the safety of the Lord. What a blessing that must have been for David. 

I encourage you to read Psalm 4 once a day, it is only eight verses, and notice if your confidence and trust in the Lord bring you peace. May it deepen and enrich your relationship with him. Write down what changes come into your life. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised. 

So tonight, when you lay your head down, remember, God is taking care of everything. Trust him. Be confident in him, for you are dwelling in the safety of his Presence. 

Peace, 

Chaplain Val 

Thriving in God’s Presence

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

This morning the winds howled outside, snow and rain crashed against the windows, and I woke up thinking of a story told to me years ago.

The story took place on a farm in early April. The farm animals were scattered through acres of fields when an end of season snowstorm came in fast. Skies darkened, snow fell. Four inches, 8 inches, and it kept coming. The kids and their parents had gone into the fields to bring in as many of the livestock to the barn as possible. By the time most were safely in, the snow was falling so hard that the barn and house couldn’t be seen. Mom and two daughters were in the barn getting the animals settled. Two sons were still somewhere in the field, and the dad had gone looking for them. The boys later told of how they found a fence and followed it until they felt the familiar gate, which is where Dad found them. Dad had tied a rope around himself and each of the boys so they wouldn’t get separated, and they slowly made their way in the direction of the barn. They were guided by occasional sounds from the barn that weren’t blown away by the wind. When safely together, the family each held onto a rope with Mom in the lead and Dad at the back making sure no one got lost. Offering encouraging words and their presence, the parents eventually got the family safely back to the house where they waited for the storm to end.

When going through hard times, or simply just going through life, none of us can do it alone. The good news is that we don’t have to. We have God…. who promises always to be present with us. Like the parents in the snowstorm, God stays with us in all situations. We are God’s beloved sons and daughters, part of God’s family. God promises to be our refuge, shelter, and encourager. We can thrive in life because God is WITH us and God is FOR us.

As you go through each day this month, spend some time simply focusing on God’s presence. And remember that “the One who goes ahead of you, opening up the way, is the same One who stays close and never lets go of your hand.”

Chaplain Karen